“No dream is too big,” announces racecar driver Guy Gagné (Bill Hader), “And no dreamer is too small!” the first time he says this in Turbo, Guy is on TV: he’s just won a race and he’s surrounded by reporters and fans. More precisely, he’s on a VHS tape, consigned to a garage and currently played by a snail named Turbo (Ryan Reynolds).
Turbo the movie doesn’t explain how Turbo the snail was able to load the tape or turn on the TV, though it does suggest that he’s watched Guy’s speech repeatedly, as he knows all the words and the gestures, clinging to each with the fervor of a true believer. For Turbo is that small dreamer, indeed, that very smallest of small dreamers. When a mishap leads to the loss of the TV, poor Turbo is left to dream on without visual aids, trying to outrace a lawnmower to a tomato out in the garden where he, his nervous brother Chet (Paul Giamatti), and other snails spend their days eating fallen tomatoes and watching out for scary humans. When Chet sums up his philosophy thus: “The sooner you accept the dull, miserable nature of your existence, the happier you’ll be,” you can understand Turbo’s eagerness to get out.
He gets his chance when he falls into a street-racing car’s engine and gets zapped with nitrous oxide, meets a taco vendor and part-time snail racer named Tito (Michael Peña), who, as it happens, also has big dreams and feels restrained by an older brother, Angelo (Luis Guzmán). Tito’s team of enthusiastic racing snails includes the leader Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson) and Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg). These are matched, more or less, by a team of small businesspeople in the mall where Tito and Angelo have their taco shop, including model shop owner Bobby (Richard Jenkins) and mechanic Paz (Michelle Rodriguez).
Though Turbo and Tito can’t actually speak to one another, Turbo’s charge allows him to mark surfaces with light-streaks (sort of like Charlotte the spider in Charlotte’s Web, but without spelling words), and so they come up with a sort of communication, deciding together that Turbo should enter the Indianapolis 500. Tito and his mall-mates drive to the track in his taco truck (while Angelo remains back at the mall, fuming first, then watching and cheering the team on TV). The snail team comes along too, serving as Turbo’s tailor-made pit crew, encouraging him at just the right moment in just the right way.
Why It’s Fun
Turbo’s animation is sharp and bright, even with the 3D.
The movie’s “dream big” message is fine, though it is very familiar, as are the doubting relatives and packs of supportive sidekicks.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of several recent animated movies will be pleased or exasperated by the many plot points copied here. Original sources include: A Bug’s Life (garden setting), Cars (racetrack setting), Ratatouille (human-animal pairing), any movie where the hero is supported by a motley crew, here redoubled by the snail and human versions.
What To Be Aware Of
The garden where Turbo and Chet live originally features a running joke: every day, a crow swoops in and picks up a hapless snail, who is never to be seen again.
Apart from the lunacy of the Indy 500 premise (a teeny snail zips along on hot pavement amid racecars for 500 miles), it also appears to encourage cheating, as Turbo is powered by nitrous oxide, which is technically outlawed in such races.
Of course, Mattel has come up with a line of snail-related toys.
The obvious potential danger to tiny Turbo on the racetrack — with large, loud, fast cars visibly menacing — gives way almost immediately to a closer-shot focus on how his size is an asset, as he weaves in and out of traffic, under cars, and even along the guard wall.
6 out of 10
Director: David Soren
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez
Studio: 20th Century Fox
US General Release: July 17, 2013
UK General Release: October 18, 2013